Now that hes dead, the old sleaze in the Playboy mansion is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Quite the opposite, writes Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore
Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dreaded of such bellows. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.
It is strange that these outlaweds have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a lawsuit it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a human who find, solicited and constructed gains from girls selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.
Now that he’s dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking coat is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to have been involved. Righty ho.
I don’t really know which girls were liberated by Hefner’s fictions. I guess if you aspired to be a living Barbie it was as fabulous as it is to be in Donald Trump’s entourage. Had we gone to tribunal, I would like to have heard some of the former playmates and bunnies speak up in court- because over the years they have.The accounts of the” privileged few” who attained it into the inner sanctum of the 29 -room Playboy mansion as spouses/ girlfriends/ bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefner’s petting zoo/ harem/ brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And surely not boyfriends. They were given an “allowance”. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this “nirvana” were described by one-time Hefner” girlfriend no 1″ Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: ” I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in .”~ ATAGEND
The fantasy that Hefner sold was not a fantasy of freedom for women, but for men. Women had to be strangely chaste but constantly available for the right price. Garmenting grown women as rabbits- once seen as the high levels of sophistication- is now seen as camp and ironic. There are those today who want to celebrate Hefner’s contribution to publication journalism, and I don’t dispute that Playboy did use some fantastic writers.
Part of Hefner’s business acumen was to attain the selling of female flesh respectable and hip, to construct soft porn acceptable. Every man’s dreaming was to have Hefner’s lifestyle. Apparently. Every picture of him, right to the end, depicts him with his lizard smirk surrounded by blonde clones. Every half-wit on Twitter is asking if Hefner will go to heaven where reference is already lived in it.
But listen to what the women say about this heaven. Every week, Izabella St James remembers, they had to go to his room and” wait while he picked the dog poo off the carpet- and then ask for our allowance. A thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred dollar bill from a safe in one of his bookcases .”
If any of them left the mansion and were not available for club nights where they were paraded, they didn’t get their allowance. The sheets in the mansion were stained. There was to be no bickering between girlfriends. No condoms could be used. A nurse sometimes had to be called to Hefner’s ” grotto” if he’d had a autumn. Nonetheless, these young lady would have to perform.
Hefner- repeatedly described as an icon for sexual liberation- would lie there with, I guess, an iconic erection, Viagra-ed to the eyeballs. The main girlfriend would then be called to give him oral sex. There was no protection and no testing. He didn’t care, wrote Jill Ann Spaulding. Then the other women would take turns to get on top of him for two minutes while the girls in the background enacted lesbian scenarios to keep “Daddy” excited. Is there no end to this glamour?
Well now there is, of course. But this human is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other humen. Isn’t that the definition of a pimp? I couldn’t possibly say.
Read more: www.theguardian.com